RNA molecules play diverse functional and structural roles in cells. They function as messengers for transferring genetic information from DNA to proteins, as the primary genetic material in many viruses, as catalysts (ribozymes) important for protein synthesis and RNA processing, and as essential and ubiquitous regulators of gene expression in living organisms. Many of these functions depend on precisely orchestrated interactions between RNA molecules and specific proteins in cells. Understanding the molecular mechanisms by which proteins recognize and bind RNA is essential for comprehending the functional implications of these interactions, but the recognition `code' that mediates interactions between proteins and RNA is not yet understood. Success in deciphering this code would dramatically impact the development of new therapeutic strategies for intervening in devastating diseases such as AIDS and cancer. Because of the high cost of experimental determination of protein-RNA interfaces, there is an increasing reliance on statistical machine learning methods for training predictors of RNA-binding residues in proteins. However, because of differences in the choice of datasets, performance measures, and data representations used, it has been difficult to obtain an accurate assessment of the current state of the art in protein-RNA interface prediction.
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